Wednesday, 22 December 2010

There Ain't Gon' Be No Revolution Tonight

K, I gots some things to say right here, so I’m just going to say them. This is the situation, albeit a very simplied version, as I see it. Maybe you see things differently, if so please leave a comment, I’m all for sparking debate on this and the myriad of related topics. Right, ready? Consumerism and production. BAM! ‘Nice topic round Christmas time, Zoe!’, yep I know but I had to go there.

Every day, it becomes more apparent that those of us in the 1st world, need to buy less stuff. We need to consume less because we need to stem the damage caused by both the production of all that stuff, and the disposal of the stuff we no longer want. The depressing thing is, even though most intelligent and switched on individuals understand this, the individuals, corporations, businesses and governments with the most power to enforce change, largely chose not to. Which is due to economics.

Governments and international bodies have not and are not forcing the changes necessary because it will cost them the support, financial backing and votes that they need to keep them in power. If the G20 really did put the screws on global production and fossil fuel usage, the individual governments would lose the support of big business as well as be blamed for the resultant unemployment (from the production, transportation and selling of all that stuff) and for the increase in taxes and fuels bills. This is obviously a vast simplification of the situation, but that’s the basics, as I see them.

I don’t have the answer for preventing a rise in unemployment that most countries would experience, or for preventing public backlash against the raise in the cost of living that switching over to renewable fuels sources would probably bring. But we cannot let ‘economics ’ be the reason we will be forced to give our kids when they ask us in the future why we knowingly let our planet go to shit. Free market capitalism isn’t currently the planet’s best friend (or the majority of the world’s population who live in poverty). I don’t currently have an answer for the question of which economic system would reduce the present inequality in standard of living over the globe and encourage rather than prevent us from making the changes necessary to stem the environmental damage caused to the planet.

Despite a lack of strong leadership from our systems of power, I don’t think our current situation is hopeless. I know that people can be very effective when they put their minds to it. I don’t see that we have any choice but, as individual tenants of earth, to make what changes we can to how we live our lives, and to keep talking and listening and learning about these topics: all of which will make a positive impact on the situation AND also hopefully build up pressure on Big Business to change its practices and government to create and implement effective legislation.

16 comments:

bagqueen said...

You go girl! I'm with you all the way and last year I really did get myself organised and had a hand made, low key Christmas. so how is it that this year I haven't done that, only made a few presents and so have got caught up in the consumer buying round. I don't know what to get for some people but I have bought them presents anyway, probably things they don't want!!

AvaTrimble said...

This is a great post, and quite inspirational. I've been struggling with trying to write a blog post/article (relating to my senior thesis project, actually) about something similar, but specific to the ready-to-wear market and fashion industry. It's so overwhelming to try to tackle things like that and write about them in a way that's persuasive, succinct, thorough, and truthful. I am feeling a little encouraged by your post.

And I think that Christmas is the perfect time to talk about rampant consumerism as a problem. Instead of giving in at the holidays and going further into debt, it's a great time for people to stop and re-evaluate. I have a policy of doing all hand-made gifts, that I only break for very specific things.

One of the gifts I'm giving my boyfriend (his birthday is right after Christmas, so there need to be multiple distinct gifts!) is a store-bought book, but it's an inexpensive one, something special from his childhood, and I'm accompanying it with an embroidered bookmark, the design done to match an illustration from the book. So even though it technically breaks my anti-consumerism rule, it follows the spirit of it, I think!

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. :)

Ruby Star said...

politics sure isn't what it use to be and i think the problem is that there are no easy answers for them and of course they don't want to cause an uproar, i guess if we had some grand solution then they would be more inclined to make those positive changes.
As i was reading your post , i'm thinking we need some kind of jamie oliver of the fashion industry to start a fashion revolution with a smilibg face the governments can't say no... right? Or maybe if enough of us stop buying the cheap & nasty store clothes...
Problem is they're cheap and I'm not sure what it's like in other countries but here in Australia it really is quite expensive to buy fabric and notions etc. It's actually cheaper for me to buy fabric from USA and get it shipped to my door than to buy locally.
Nevertheless I'm with you all the way. We just need to find a solution and sell it to the governments then maybe some change will occur. Love your work x

Lucky Lucy said...

Yikes, lots to ponder here. First, I understand the frustration we all feel at the current world-wide economic-humanistic-ecological situation. That said, while there is more media coverage now than ever before about such things, this subject has reared its ugly head many times in my lifetime.

Human nature, despite politics, frequently drives the inequalities of life. It's true. So, what's a girl to do? In our own little ways we can each effect change in our own little worlds. Mostly, that is as good as it gets. Use up your stash, re-purpose when possible, demand better quality products, (don't buy the junk) share your sewing knowledge with others in a pass-it-on style. Be aware of current events in your village, city, country. Keep in touch with elected officials to keep your voice relevant to the political process in your country. Study historical perspectives on subjects that are important to you.

Remember that all change takes time, patience, honest work and commitment. Be proud of your progress so far. You do the best you can at the time. Retrospective insight is priceless, as we all know. Indulge in a bit, then move on.

When I am sidelined by all this stuff I go back to my basic thoughts from some time ago, when things were really bad for me. I would say to myself (I admit this is a bit sarcastic) "I woke up today, I am not on fire, I am not bleeding....how bad can the day/situation be?"

angie.a said...

This year I have had a horrid time "buying" Christmas gifts. Not because I do not want to gift my loved ones, but because inevitably I'm buying things that are essentially a waste. Many things will be discarded or not used to its full potential. Many will not be appreciated. (I have several teen nephews, if that puts that statement into perspective). I would rather bake a homemade batch of bread for my siblings than give them wrapped trifles that they probably don't want. I'm still struggling with expressing my desire (to my family and friends) that I do not wish to participate in the rampant consumerism that is engulfing the world, but still love them and wish to express that during the holidays in other ways.

As for what to do to change it all, personally I'm trimming the extras from my life. I'm going to live with less, on less. I'll be gardening and sewing more and buying less. I'm also concentrating on purchasing second-hand or handmade items for my home (furnishings, decorative accessories, etc). I'm also paying more attention to country of origin. I think for my country (the US) free trade with certain nations has resulted in greed of every color, and an incessant need for "things". I'm overwhelmed by things, personally and ready to declutter!

Whew. That was wordy. Good post!

Rueby... said...

Excellent post and as others have said, Christmas time is an EXCELLENT time to think about mass production and consumerism. Over the last few years I've taken more and more issue with the adults in my family buying each other things...I didn't really ask for anything this year, because i don't need anything! I'll be making all the gifts for adults. The kids I did buy things for, but not a lot and better choices than many give in my opinion.
In general as well I've found I don't buy anything "new" anymore. Shoes...but high quality and cute as opposed to cheap but cute; and the odd household item like a shelf and a new scrub brush. Most of my household comes secondhand. I can't justify paying new prices for things I can find used, usually for less. I also can't justify buying something new and allowing another to be produced in its place when there already another one sitting somewhere waiting to be used again.
I take a lot of pride in the fact that looking around my kitchen, which is crammed with stuff, I can find...15 things I acquired or bought new. Out of around 200 things. That's an awesome ratio :)

Tilly said...

Great post, and great comments by readers - I especially like Ruby Star's suggestion of having a Jamie Oliver-type figure to raise public awareness about sustainable fashion, as many people see thrifters, home-stitchers and clothes-recyclers as tree-huggers or old grandmas, rather than the cool dudes we know we are! I was hoping that Kirsty's Homemade Christmas was going to do some of this work but unfortunately glass-blowing and basket-weaving aren't instantly replicable at home. We need someone on primetime telly inspiring the masses to try out simple clothes mending and upcycling and home sewing. We need to become the mainstream!

Anonymous said...

Great post at any time of year. (I don't "do" Christmas myself. It's not in my calendar.) People need to learn to distinguish between generosity and extravagance. In my book, spending your time lovely sewing me a hat every winter (as one of my sisters used to when we were young) is more generous and more appreciated than giving me something more expensive but less thoughtful. I don't think that buying less necessarily means higher unemployment or lower quality of life. If we buy quality 'slow-made' goods, somebody is still working to make them. If I have my washing machine repaired, instead of buying a new one every few years, someone is still working to repair it. It is primary production that is the most costly to the ecology. Such a huge debate and discussion, but in the end frugality needs to become a good word again....

Hatty

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my sister used to make me a lovely hat...

Hatty

Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood said...

I live in America. We used to be an industrial nation. There were big factories that people worked in. BTW, these factories were bad for the environment, dangerously more so than consumerism ever will be. Our country transitioned. Now, all those jobs are basically gone. What has replaced those jobs is the consumer driven market and the jobs associated with providing people goods and services. People didn't like working long hard hours for little pay in factories. I am a big supporter of the capitalist system and i would never live in any other setting. I believe that it provides the most freedom for people to make their own choices. It allows the individual to decide where their own strengths lie and create a living from them. That being said; I do realize that there are merits in being a minimalist when it comes to consumerism. I believe that is a personal choice.I think there is a balance there. I also think that there is more credit due to the number of people who reuse, and recycle out of sheer poverty. If you cannot afford to be a mass consumer, then you just don't be one. Your adapt to survive without lots of money,. I think that's commendable. But I don't think everyone should be forced to live the same way. There is a balance there that I really don't believe that there is anything to worry about. Life is a pendulum and it swings from one extreme to the next.

Toria said...

Thank you Zo, I'm glad I'm not the only one currently struggling with this sentiment.

I just don't understand how people can continue to sustain such levels of conspicuous consumption when all it's ultimately doing is contributing to our landfills. It's as though people don't understand that we live in a closed system and that there is literally nowhere else for us to go if we screw up badly enough. Sod save the planet, the world will trundle along quite happily, it's humanity that need saving!

But you're right, it seems to be chaos and poverty for many more if things change and, oh wait, poverty and chaos if they don't ;) I don't have the answers either I'm afraid, but I sure do feel better now I've got all that off my chest!

Have a fabulous Christmas and a stonking New Year, I hope you enjoy all your presents, homemade or commercial x

Crystal said...

A good read for you might be "your money or your life". While it also has a program to adjust people's ideas about their own money, it contains loads of information regarding the disposable consumerism that is needed in order for companies to turn more and more profits. Interesting solutions like job sharing (if everyone spent less and needed less money, two people could share the same job) make it clear that the only reason unemployment is an issue in an economy like ours is that corporations are getting less people to do more work (beef up their bottom line) and most people want to make more money than they need. Decades ago women didn't have to work because people didn't want a 3000 sq ft house, 2 cars, and the most expensive kitchen appliances. They just wanted shelter, food, family, and some comforts.

It's a shift in how quality of life is seen (brought about through advertising) that makes people think a better life is one with more stuff, but companies could survive just fine if they weren't dependant on ever increasing instead of sustaining.

Sølvi said...

Great post, great timing and some great comments!

I am with you - and I know that the struggle for a "better world" need to be on the agenda ALL the time, otherwise people tend to forget.

Minnado said...

Great post Zoe, a dodgy mouse has prevented me from responding before now! I have spent the past year cuttin gback on consuming stuff and it has made me question and examine my attitudes in unexpected ways. I am not sure though how this can become a mass message when for many people buying stuff is so damn easy, and seen to be so normal. Kind of like "I shop, therefore I am", we are in a society where we are defined often by what we wear, and what we own. We bought our kids one present each, then they also got drawing books, crayons etc in their stockings. But we are seen by the surrounding in-laws as mean parents! Revolutions can happen one person at a time,

Anonymous said...

I only just read this post and can I just say TOTES!

You should and will write an amazing book about this. You are very eloquent and persuasive.

I hope and believe that as the world becomes more aware, we can make changes to how we live our daily lives and, in doing so, effect change from the bottom up. It is depressingly clear that we should not be waiting for our 'leaders' to inspire and guide us on this front.

I am so grateful to the radical and pro-actvie bloggers out there who are sharing their ideas, yes, but more importantly, sharing some of their knowledge and thus encouraging people to live more sustainably and creatively themselves.

Keep writing. As if you won't

Harriet x

Anonymous said...

Too much to say about this topic! I hope for a mass lifestyle shift where we all do less paid work and have more time to be responsible for meeting our own basic needs - eg. everyone taking part in growing food for their own consumption and for local trade.

I also imagine people spending their freed-up time repairing, upcycling and remaking appliances, clothes, furniture etc and also learning how to make things that at this time we rely on other people in countries like the PRC to produce, becoming complicit in their exploitation and the degradation of their immediate environment.

Of course we would specialise (totally agree with Natalie at makeshift project on this - it saves time and results in better quality and therefore longer lasting items) - we are all good at different things, and there would be more trade (of time for time, materials, finished items etc) than there is now.

Such a shift would also give us more time to appreciate nature - there's nothing like immersing yourself in your natural surroundings to put things in perspective, it's a great antidote for consumer cravings.

There would still be room for individualism (like most English speaking societies, mine places a very high value on individualism), and it's something many people are already starting to do by themselves, slowly creating small groups and communities dedicated to aspects of such a shift.

Exciting times...love your blog Zoe, so inspiring to see you living your values!

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